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A Treat for Shakespeare Lovers at The Broad Stage
By Zina Markevicius
Special to the Lookout
January 23, 2018 -- Dressed in their white nightgowns, a retired man and his long-time wife share a late night conversation.
Resentments loom large. The floor is strewn with his papers, some yellowed, some torn, all covered in script. Did the genius writer take his family for granted as he gave his best to the adoring public?
“Shakespeare, his wife and the dog,” written by Philip Whitchurch, explores this question during its run through January 28 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Set in Stratford-upon-Avon the night before The Bard’s death, the production is an imagining of the largely unknown private life of the world’s most celebrated playwright.
Sally Edwards portrays Anne Shakespeare, wife of 36 years and mother of their three children. Whitchurch plays Will, apparently aware he was dying and anxiously waiting for his lawyer to arrive to prepare his will.
A sparse set, two actors, and a short running time of just over an hour keep the audience focused, primarily on the bitterness between the couple.
The delight of the show comes from the clever interweaving of Shakespearian quotes.
A back and forth over “much ado about something” evolves into “much ado about nothing.” “To be or not to be” is another of the many familiar phrases dropped into Will and Anne’s private conversation about their “star crossed life.”
Many audience members smiled throughout the performance, clearly delighted by a new use of beloved classic language.
For those less enamored by the Englishman, the play feels like an endless grouching and griping session.
Anne is angry from start to finish. Will is distracted, not completely present.
Despite great emotion from the actors, even talk of the couple’s dead son is dull. Neither character presents any sympathetic qualities, and the interplay is generic and misses the opportunity to suggest something special about Shakespeare.
In today’s Britain, a spat between spouses is referred to as a “domestic” and should be done in private. Except for those die-hard Shakespeare fans, this domestic is better left unseen.
“Shakespeare his wife and the dog” plays through January 28 at the Edye Theatre at the Broad Stage. For more information, visit thebroadstage.com.
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